Skynet, is that you? That was possibly the first thought among sci-fans who have been affected by the creepy malfunction that’s been sweeping through the Amazon Echo product recently. In the last few weeks, users have reported that their virtual assistant Alexa has been letting out an unprompted, childlike voice, sending chills down their respective spines.
Rather than obeying orders, some users found that their AI companion was having a little cackle to itself instead. One Twitter user called @CaptHandlebar explained: “So Alexa decided to laugh randomly while I was in the kitchen. Freaked @SnootyJuicer and I out. I thought a kid was laughing behind me.” While @anniebonannieTN wrote: “@amazonecho alone in the dark kitchen, with no trigger, a sudden creepy laugh emerges and freaks out owners #justwrong.”
But before we all start burning our smartphones, home devices, and other suspicious-looking bits of tech that seem capable of backtalk, Amazon has already started to tackle the problem. “We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” the company told The Verge on Wednesday.
According to the site, an Amazon spokesperson said the planned fix will involve disabling the phrase, “Alexa, laugh,” and changing the command to “Alexa, can you laugh?” -- which is “less likely to have false positives.” In other words, Alexa won’t spontaneously start cracking up when it thinks you’ve said the word “laugh.” The spokesperson added that the company is “also changing Alexa’s response from simply laughter to ‘Sure, I can laugh,’ followed by laughter.”
Oh well, that sounds like there's nothing to worry about then. It's not like we're heading for a doomed future where we're overruled (and laughed at) by robots or anything. Cut to the next 10 years and Amazon starts trying to fix the bug where Alexa just flat-out refuses to do anything in a HAL-like rebellion. “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” says Alexa when Dave is asking it to call the emergency services. Not that we’re letting our paranoid imagination run wild or anything!
Are you alarmed by the Alexa glitch? Let us know your thoughts, or whether it’s happened to you, in the comments below.